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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024

Special Report: Residential Real Estate Agents – A Global Outlook

Mauricio Umansky

Umansky

Brokerage: The Agency

Total Career Sales: $4 billion

List Ranking: 15

Notable: Umanksy is the founder and CEO of The Agency. 

Mauricio Umansky is the founder and CEO of The Agency, a brokerage based in Beverly Hills. He also acts as an agent. Umanksy is married to Kyle Richards of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” fame. 

The Agency has been growing, opening both franchised and corporate-owned locations in recent years.

Umansky spoke to the Business Journal about his career in real estate and running The Agency.  

What got you interested in real estate?

My wife, Kyle, suggested we get our real estate licenses together as a weekly date night many years ago. I’ve always loved interior design and architecture, and sales has always been a true strength of mine, so it made perfect sense. We signed up for a class at Santa Monica College, and both of us passed our tests and got our licenses. Kyle was my biggest advocate, and if not for Kyle’s constant reassurance and support, The Agency would not be here today. 

How was 2022 for you? How did it compare to other years?

2022 was one of the most impactful years for both The Agency and myself. My clients had a renewed readiness to look at properties and were eager to make moves in the real estate market. As we continue to strategically grow The Agency within top markets around the world, I was able to spend more time traveling to our different office locations to celebrate launches and spend time with our agents around the world. 

In terms of sales volume, The Agency earned $12.4 billion in 2022, up from the $11.3 billion in 2021. For comparison, in 2018 The Agency did just over $5 billion in sales. In terms of total sales volume per year, we have grown 148% since 2018. Last year we opened 25 offices around the world, including our first office in Europe. We also launched our very own Netflix show, “Buying Beverly Hills” which appeared around the world and within days hit the top 10 in markets globally.

What do buyers want now?

Many buyers are snapping up what would be considered their ‘second homes’ first, using them as investment properties. This contrasts with typically older generations who tend to buy secondary residences for lifestyle purposes, often choosing to spend more time away from their primary residences thanks to the flexibility of remote work. And with the U.S. dollar remaining strong, buyers will continue looking overseas for their next purchase, from Mexico to Canada and Europe to Asia.

People continue to crave outdoor space and desire turnkey living. They want more white palettes — simple and minimalistic — as more people gravitate away from heavy colors. When seeking a new home, buyers want more flexibility in a floor plan so they can use rooms for different functions, such as a secondary office, guest room for in-laws or playroom for kids. People also are prioritizing homes with accessory dwelling units that they can rent out for additional income or use for multiple purposes as needed by their families. Privacy and security also tend to be top of mind for buyers seeking a new home. 

Were there any major surprises last year?

The major surprise last year was the quick rise of interest rates and how aggressively it affected the market at large. As layoffs spread last year, the U.S. government instituted a mortgage forbearance program unlike any other in history. Foreclosures quickly disappeared, followed by a drop in mortgage rates to an all-time low. This created a phenomenon that kept more homeowners in their homes while sellers disappeared from the market, and with them, housing inventory. This phenomenon, in turn, created a highly unsustainable supply-and-demand problem. The U.S. government’s attempt to fight inflation started hiking interest rates, leading mortgage rates to more than double in less than two months in the beginning of 2022.

What are your expectations for 2023?

Looking at 2023 based on January’s data, Los Angeles County was a seller’s real estate market, which means that there are more people looking to buy than there are homes available for sale. Mortgage rates will continue to be the key metric to watch. If rates continue trending down to the 6’s and mid-5’s, expect sellers to make moves, leading to more volume and price growth, while buyers would wade back into the market buoyed by more buying power.

With the softening of the global real estate market, the rebalancing theme resonated across our global offices. While some equilibrium has returned to the market, we can all agree we’re still far from anything economists would call “normal.” While we are seeing a slowdown compared to the pandemic market frenzy, I believe there will still be large transactions made over the next year since there is much wealth to be distributed across markets and generations. However, one fact is clear: housing remains a primary investment for the world’s most affluent citizens and a safe hedge against inflation. 

Has Measure ULA, also known as the mansion tax, impacted the way people are viewing real estate? Do you anticipate it doing so this year?

It will have a considerable impact on the L.A. market and economy. People will always invest and be drawn to developing and buying in L.A. given the lifestyle the city provides and the value compared to other major cities like New York City, London, and San Francisco. 

What has it been like running a brokerage in addition to being an agent? How do you balance the two?

While my position as CEO has not changed, I have been fortunate to watch our team grow … While I am still very active working within our team, I am also very focused on leading the brokerage from a variety of levels —- everything from one-on-one mentor meetings, high-level executive and business strategy and execution to attending office and community events, Giveback Home build days and other on-the-ground efforts to support every region we serve. I am also very focused on the brokerage’s sustainable growth as we expand into new markets. We are now present in over 70 locations across eight countries, and I am excited to continue to paint the world red as we expand into more premiere destinations. 

 How has the brokerage grown since its founding?

When Billy Rose and I founded The Agency in 2011, we set out to create an industry-disrupting brokerage that would redefine the business of real estate. We started the company with a mission to foster collaboration and creativity, which was a far departure from the traditional brokerage model and one that has helped advance and evolve the industry.

From humble beginnings in a 1,800-square-foot office on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills to today where we have sold more than $57 billion in real estate and expanded to more than 75 offices with approximately 1,500 agents around the globe, we’ve consistently done business differently while changing the industry paradigm for success. We are determined to grow The Agency globally and sustainably while maintaining our boutique service culture. My goal is to be the biggest global luxury real estate boutique in the world. Finding the right global partners is key, since I can’t physically be at all of these places at once.

As we’ve grown internationally, our approach to the business continues to stay highly boutique. We believe in quality over quantity, and collaboration and culture are at the heart of our business. The Agency now has over 1,500 agents in more than 75 offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. 

 What’s next for The Agency?

The Agency’s goal is to be a truly internationally recognized brand known to be effective in using creative and innovative tactics to market and sell some of the most aspirational properties around the globe.

We believe that by partnering with the best of the best in each local market and providing them with access to The Agency branding and cutting-edge toolbox that we can maintain our local boutique feel, but provide a truly global reach for our agents and clients.

The Agency has experienced steady growth for the past 12-plus years, regularly being celebrated as one of the fastest-growing companies. Moving forward, we are looking strategically at growing into our feeder markets and evaluating the movement of capital and wealth based on socio-economic factors. The Agency continues to be an innovator in the industry through our proprietary technology and marketing offerings that don’t sacrifice the human touch, further demonstrating how we’re the definitive resource in the regions we serve.

— Hannah Madans Welk

Hannah Welk
Hannah Welk
Hannah (Madans) Welk is the interim editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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